A zero carbon park – whose design is themed after the villages of the East Indian community – will soon come up in the Juhu village at a cost of Rs 2 crore. It will feature elements, including Portuguese-style architecture, roadside crucifixes, grottoes, chapels and wells. The project on the half-acre garden plot, which is currently owned by the suburban district collector, is expected to start after getting clearance from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA). The nod is significant as the land is located near the coast and hence there are restrictions on construction.
The proposal came into being after the East Indians approached the state government, seeking land for building a community headquarters. “This plot was reserved as a recreation space. As the land comes under the Coastal Regulation Zone, no construction would have been allowed on it. I thought it would be appropriate for a park,” said Andheri west MLA Ameet Satam, who is involved in the project.
Garden to have rainwater harvesting provision
He continued that the permission from MCZMA is expected to come by the end of October. “We expect the work to be completed in three-four months once the permission comes in,” he informed. The legislator highlighted that the garden will have rainwater harvesting provision and perennial plants that can sequester more carbon from the atmosphere. Being a 'zero carbon' space, it will also use less concrete and incorporate more hedges than cement and stonewalls.
The construction will be funded by the District Planning Development Committee also known as the MLA funds, said Satam, adding that once the garden is built, it will be handed over to the BMC for maintenance. “We are also willing to hand it over to the Mobai Gaothan Panchayat (MGP) if they volunteer for maintenance,” he added.
The MGP is the main representative body of the East Indians. Gleason Barretto, one of its members, said the garden will be named after Joseph Baptisita, popularly known as Kaka Baptista. He was a lawyer who served as the Mumbai mayor in the pre-independence era. Baptista, an East Indian, was an associate of Lokmanya Tilak and also a prominent figure in the freedom movement. “We wanted a memorial in the name of Kaka Baptista. This would be appropriate,” hailed Barretto.
Who are East Indians?
Known as one of the oldest residents of Mumbai, they are mostly found on India's west coast. They are referred to as East Indians because many of them believe that their ancestors worked for the British East India Company, giving them the name. Some community members prefer to call themselves Marathi Catholics or Christians. They are descendents of Kolis, Agris, Bhandaris and other groups who were converted to Roman Catholicism in the 16th century. Some of their surviving settlements like Khotachiwadi and Matharpacady in Mazgaon still feature houses built in a blend of Indian and Portuguese architectural styles.